Saturday, April 19, 2014

Theme: Writers

  • Consider, for example, the Pynchon anecdotes told by the television producer Deane Rink—who attended Cornell a few years after Pynchon and studied creative writing under Walter Slatoff, with whom Pynchon had also studied. Rink tells his stories as part of an early Web exercise in which he sent emails for publication to the B&R Samizdat Express at the end of 1996, when he was in McMurdo, Antarctica, to work on Live from Antarctica (1997) for PBS productions.Read more
  • In 2009, a couple days after I arrived, when Khaled’s English and my Arabic were at their worst, we had dinner at an outdoor café. We were eating chicken schwarma [sic] and drinking a kind of yogurt, sitting on plastic chairs, and a wedding party drove by with horns honking.Read more
  • he invited me to the village Kout-chouk-Koy where he had a tiny strip of land and a white, two-storied house. There, while showing me his "estate," he began to speak with animation: "If I had plenty of money, I should build a sanatorium here for invalid village teachers. You know, I would put up a large, bright building—very bright, with large windows and lofty rooms. I would have a fine library, different musical instruments, bees, a vegetable garden, an orchard. . . . There would be lectures on agriculture, mythology. . . . Teachers ought to know everything, everything, my dear fellow."Read more
  • Zadie Smith speaks about LondonRead more
  • In select company, he’s intensely social and charismatic, and, in spite of those famously shaming Bugs Bunny teeth, he was rarely without a girlfriend for the 30 years he spent wandering and couch-surfing before getting married in 1990. Today, he’s a yuppie—self-confessed, if you read his new novel, Bleeding Edge, as a key to the present life of a man whose travels led one critic to reflect: “Salinger hides; Pynchon runs.” Read more
  • I have no intention of rehearsing yet another diatribe against the Swedish Academy’s Nobel committee in Stockholm, which, as is well known in US publishing circles, hasn’t awarded its prize in literature to an American writer since 1993. A few years back, Horace Engdahl, a member of the academy, justified the rejection by stating—famously—that Americans are “too isolated, too insular,” and that we “don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature.”Read more
  • Literature should generate lively public debates — all scholars worth their salt will proclaim. We believe in the importance of culture and think that intellectual tussles over significant books, and not celebrity gossip, should grace the front page of newspapers. In reality, such prominent literary arguments rarely happen. Yet half a year ago, South African and international magazines as well as the online media exploded with such a debate — some have called it a feud — that has been flaring up periodically with follow-up responses.Read more
  • I had been emailing Stinson for approximately two weeks prior to randomly walking into him and recognizing him in the street on Houston, by the Angelika. It was a particularly bad day for me emotionally – or rather, “professionally?” – as I had completed an immense amount of work I did not feel happy conducting and had spent approximately half an hour crying uncontrollably in a cubicle. “Erik?” I said, to which he responded affirmatively.Read more
  • The man who was born one hundred and thirty years ago today in Prague didn't have a simple fate: he lived a restless life, trying to dominate the "immense world in his head". The son of the surly merchant Hermann Kafka, young Franz was a model employee but also a nocturnal writer; tormented and unresolved, he sabotaged with maniacal precision his own loves, cultivated vague dreams of escape without ever leaving the Bohemian capital, became ill with tuberculosis, and died at age 40 having written some of the most extraordinary works of all time.Read more
  • Robert Frost’s second book, North of Boston (1914), has almost universally been considered the defining moment of his literary maturation. First published in England when the poet was forty years old, it reflected twenty hard and lonely years of quiet artistic development. Read more
  • It isn’t Salter’s language alone that numbers him among the masters, but it is what strikes you first. From Light Years of 1975: ‘On the stands in nearby orchards were hard, yellow apples filled with powerful juice. They exploded against the teeth, they spat white flecks like arguments.’ From the story ‘Am Strande von Tanger’, on the death of a bird: ‘A heart no bigger than an orange seed has ceased to beat.’ Read more
  • Critics have long held that, even if Cervantes was at least somewhat aware that his work would be successful, this was only because he knew it was funny, and hoped that, in reading it, as he famously wrote in his first preface to Don Quixote, "the melancholy would be moved to laughter, and the merry made merrier still." Read more
  • When it happens I feel as if I have stepped into a Far Side cartoon. I am a magazine editor, and the galley of an article will come back from a proofreader with a low-frequency word circled and this comment in the margin: “Does this word even exist?” or “Is this a real word?” Read more
  • Although her novels were well-received and regularly published from 1950 to 1963, and although she continued to produce high-quality work at a steady pace between 1963 and 1977, Pym was devastated by her inability to publish at all throughout the latter period. Her friends, family, and former publisher assured her that her work was rejected during this period not because its quality had declined, but because its subject matter was out of step with the times—the world of her novels was insulated from the sex, drugs, and social revolution then capturing the public’s imagination. Read more
  • In the first place, I want to emphasise the note of interrogation at the end of my title. Even if I could answer the question for myself, the answer would apply only to me and not to you. The only advice, indeed, that one person can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your own instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions.Read more
  • An editor, a person of authority and supposed discretion, requested a friend of mine, the other day, to write an essay with this weird title: “How to Read a Book of Poems so as to Get the Most Good out of It.” My friend, “more than usual calm,” politely excused himself, suffering the while from suppressed oratory.Read more
  • American writers are familiar with the manifest injustices of the literary marketplace. They are also accustomed to feeling outrage on behalf of censored writers abroad, signing petitions from Amnesty International or PEN. But Sinyavsky's story addresses some of the aspects of state control of literature that we consider less often. Read more
  • The Lost & Found project at CUNY’s Center for the Humanities, essential to the revival of the lost novel, has brought thoughtful attention to resurrecting lost prose, journals, and correspondence from a range of twentieth-century writers. Since 2010, its annual series of chapbooks has spotlighted the pamphlet-length work of Diane di Prima, Amiri Baraka, Jack Spicer, Lorine Niedecker, and, indeed, Rukeyser. Read more
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